Proposal for city be more energy-efficient gets some push back

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HONOLULU (KHON2) — There’s a proposal on the table that would regulate the construction of new homes and business properties to be more energy efficient. This measure would help get our city closer to the state’s sustainable goals.

But critics say it will cost more to do so. Those against say it would not only apply to new buildings but possibly to existing ones under renovation.

Under the proposal, at least 25-percent of the parking stalls for new buildings must be “electric vehicle charger ready.” That means having the basic wiring installed for future charging stations. This would apply to new residential multi-unit buildings with eight or more parking stalls and new commercial buildings that have 12 or more.

Tina Yamaki of Retail Merchants of Hawaii tells us adding this type of infrastructure would increase costs for retailers that rent commercial spaces. Those costs would then trickle down to the consumers.

“You’re mandating that we have to do it. As a retailer, we’re not a gas station or refueling station. That is not our purpose,” said Yamaki.

Yamaki also says the proposal does not cater to the majority. According to the state, there are only about 10-thousand electric vehicles on our roads today. But Councilwoman Ann Kobayashi, who introduced the measure by request, says there will be more electric vehicle users in the future.

“We have to be thinking of the infrastructure of these buildings because it’s much more expensive to build a building and than retrofit,” said Councilwoman Kobayashi.

The other sticking point, the measure would require residential single-family buildings to have solar water heating.

“If we want to achieve our climate goals, we need to make sure we are not using fossil gas and that’s the main rub and the controversy in this bill. Are we going to allow continued infrastructure for fossil fuels? We think the answer is no,” said Jeff Mikulina, Executive Director of the Blue Planet Foundation.

Heating water with gas could be used but it would have to be renewable gas. Hawaii Gas tells us this proposed mandate could mean no new clients.

“It would impact our ability to serve Hawaii and provide affordable and clean choices in water heating, and could have an impact on our future business,” said Jeannine Souki Director of Government Affairs and Corporate Communications for Hawaii Gas.

While it passed second reading, Councilwoman Kobayashi says there are some kinks to work out in this measure.

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